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AARP AARP States Virginia Scams & Fraud

Retired Roanoke Couple Work to Fight Fraud Locally

Kit Abell, 67, and her husband Shannon Abell, 69, speak with Tracie Lamber at their AARP booth during the Black Family Wellness Expo at Pilgrim Baptist Church in Roanoke, Virginia, Saturday, March 16, 2024.
PHOTO: Justin Cook

Shannon Abell and his wife, Kit, are a fraud-fighting power couple—at least in their Roanoke County community.

Shannon delivers fraud presentations through the Triad program, an education and outreach partnership involving local police and sheriffs, attorneys general and community groups, including AARP. The goal is to reduce crime against older adults.

It was a natural fit for Shannon, 69, who spent a career supervising the Virginia Insurance Counseling and Assistance Program and Senior Medicare Patrol for his community’s Local Office on Aging, a nonprofit. Both serve older adults on Medicare, with a focus on teaching them how to prevent fraud in the program.

When he retired in 2020, “I said, ‘I’m not just gonna go sit in the basement and vegetate watching TV. I want to continue training seniors,’ ” Shannon recalls.

Kit, 67, retired in 2021 from her job with a nonprofit serving at-risk children and developmentally disabled adults. She joins him at the presentations, working as an AARP volunteer community ambassador and distributing anti-fraud literature.

Their work amplifies AARP’s fraud efforts by “letting everyone know there is someone out there that cares about them and is looking out for them,” says Kit.

Triad began in the late 1980s as a partnership between AARP, the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the National Sheriffs’ Association. Now, there are local Triad chapters in cities and counties around the country.

The initiative takes a “hyperlocal” approach to public safety, sometimes going beyond fraud to tackle other kinds of crime, says Brian Jacks, AARP Virginia’s associate director for community outreach. Triad “does a great job of thinking about whole health” and safety, he says, such as advising older adults to have personal health information readily available for emergency medical responders or warning about a raft of car break-ins.

Shannon tracks the latest scams through his contacts with police and sheriff’s departments, state officials and AARP fraud specialists. He delivered 52 fraud prevention presentations in 2023, including several for Triad. The Triad sessions included local law enforcement officers.

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Graphic by Nicolas Rapp

His presentations delve into romance scams, identity theft, password protection and the so-called grandparent scam—in which a fraudster impersonates a grandchild and says they need money fast to get out of a jam.

Reviving triad after COVID-19

At its peak, there were more than 200 Virginia cities and towns with Triad partnerships, but partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that has dipped to 59, according to Attorney General Jason Miyares’ office. AARP and Miyares’ office say they hope to foster a rebound.

Triad is “an incredibly valuable tool” that helps to educate the public and prevent crime against older adults, Miyares said in a statement to the Bulletin.

Seth Boffeli, an AARP senior fraud adviser, says fraud prevention efforts are more effective when delivered by a peer with a local perspective. Triad’s message “has a lot deeper impact than, say, somebody joining a nationwide webinar,” he says.

If audience members tell a Triad presenter they have been the target of a scam, they are typically referred to local police, the attorney general’s office or the Federal Trade Commission, says Tameka Paige, community relations specialist for the Roanoke City Sheriff’s Office, which has a Triad program separate from the county’s.

Police officials involved with Triad say they work to reassure victims that their reports will be taken seriously. “I always tell our citizens, ‘Please, we’ll follow up with you in every way possible,’ ” says William Holland, a community resource officer with the Vinton police and the Triad coordinator in Roanoke County.

Kit says the program definitely has an impact. “We are building a community of trust,” she says.

Learn more at To see whether there’s a Triad program in your community, call your local police or sheriff’s office.

Stephen Koff is the former Washington bureau chief of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. He covers consumer, financial, retirement and health care issues.

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